A new report from two French think tanks concludes that jihadists have played a predominant role in the eastern-Libyan rebellion against the rule of Moammar Qaddafi, and that “true democrats” represent only a minority in the rebellion. The report, furthermore, calls into question the justifications given for Western military intervention in Libya, arguing that they are largely based on media exaggerations and “outright disinformation.”
The report identifies four factions among the members of the eastern Libyan National Transitional Council (NTC). Apart from a minority of “true democrats,” the other three factions comprise partisans of a restoration of the monarchy that was overthrown by Qaddafi in 1969, Islamic extremists seeking the establishment of an Islamic state, and former fixtures of the Qaddafi regime who defected to the rebels for opportunistic or other reasons.
There is a clear overlap between the Islamists and the monarchists, inasmuch as the deposed King Idris I was himself the head of the Senussi brotherhood, which the authors describe as “an anti-Western Muslim sect that practices an austere and conservative form of Islam.” The monarchists are thus, more precisely, “monarchists-fundamentalists.”
The most prominent of the defectors, the president of the NTC, Mustafa Abdul Jalil, is likewise described by the authors as a “traditionalist” who is “supported by the Islamists.” The authors point out that Jalil played an important role in the “Bulgarian nurses affair,” so called for five Bulgarian nurses who, along with a Palestinian doctor, were charged with deliberately infecting hundreds of children with AIDS in a hospital in Benghazi. As chair of the Appeals Court in Tripoli, Jalil twice upheld the death penalty for the nurses. In 2007, the nurses and the Palestinian doctor were released by the Libyan government following negotiations in which French president Nicolas Sarkozy’s then wife, Cecilia, played a highly publicized role.
The report describes members of the al-Qaeda-affiliated Libyan Islamic Fighting Group as the “main pillar of the armed insurrection.” “Thus the military coalition under NATO leadership is supporting a rebellion that includes Islamic terrorists,” the authors write. Alluding to the major role played by the Cyrenaica region in supplying recruits for al-Qaeda in Iraq, they add, “No one can deny that the Libyan rebels who are today supported by Washington were only yesterday jihadists killing American GIs in Iraq.”
The information about King Idris, the Senussi Botherhood, and the "monarchist-fundamentalist" faction, was surprising news to me.
The full report is here, but only in French. Interesting that it was French researchers who did this work, given that the French government was the primary actor in starting this NATO intervention, and the first - I believe - to extend diplomatic recognition to the National Transitional Council.